Washington Times front page headline stories
Trump to meet with foreign leaders
Rallies senior staffers in busy first weekend to do ‘great things’
President Trump conferred Sunday with Israel’s prime minister, scheduled meetings with the leaders of Canada and Mexico and oversaw the swearing-in of his senior White House staff, telling them they will do “great things over the next eight years” for America.
A day earlier, he visited the CIA to try to put to rest reports of tension, and he and his top aides objected to unfavorable coverage from the press as they sought to hit the ground running on his agenda after Mr. Trump’s swearing-in as the nation’s 45th president on Friday.
First up: an executive order easing compliance with Obamacare and a halt to all Obama administration regulations that haven’t been finalized — far short of the hectic start Mr. Trump promised on the campaign trail, when he said that on his first day in office he would crack down on sanctuary cities, direct immigration agents to enforce the laws more rigorously and move to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Mr. Trump capped a whirlwind first weekend in office Sunday with the swearing-in of 30 senior White House staffers. Mr. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, gave the new White House team a pep talk, saying their mission is “not about ideology.”
“We will prove worthy of this moment in history,” Mr. Trump said. “Each and everyone of you should be extremely proud. We will face challenges. But with faith in each other and faith in God, we will get the job done.”
The new chief executive made calls to governors of states hit by fierce weather that swept through the Southeast on Saturday night, offering condolences for the lives lost.
Islamic State finds easy recruits in prison
Propaganda, food, lure poor Muslims
The Islamic State is seeking a foothold in the prisons of Indonesia, a country with the world’s largest Muslim population and significant poverty.
Those two demographic factors can add up to a growing number of Islamic extremist recruits. The population of France is about 10 percent Muslim, and its prison system has turned into a recruiting station for the Islamic State and other violent groups.
One example cited in the report: Prison authorities allowed the Islamic State’s de facto Indonesia leader to operate a cellphone and website to disseminate jihadi propaganda. Those tools helped him do something else: remotely organize a deadly January 2016 attack in downtown Jakarta, authorities say.
With the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS, operating a base in the Middle East and expanding into Afghanistan, and Europe, the U.S. military would be hard-pressed to stamp out yet another pop-up stronghold in the multiple islands of Indonesia.
“The obstacles to effective prison management remain overwhelming,” said Sidney Jones, IPAC director and an analyst on South Asia terrorism. “Prisons are overcrowded and understaffed, corruption is rife and inadequate budgets make it easier for well-funded extremists to recruit inmates when they can offer extra food. No deradicalization program is going to be effective unless some of these issues are addressed.”
Democrats delay Cabinet confirmations
Donald Trump got off to the slowest start for any president in modern political history, with just two of his Cabinet picks confirmed so far and Democrats poised to make the process even more painful over the next weeks.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly were approved in fairly easy votes Friday evening, but Democrats refused to grant a speedy vote to Rep. Mike Pompeo, picked to lead the CIA. Liberal senators are making him sweat for a couple of days, though all sides said he will be approved Monday.
Democrats said the delay was partly about process but also suggested it was payback for Republicans’ refusal to vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court pick and for delaying other Obama Cabinet picks during the later years of his administration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said he is confident about pushing through whomever Mr. Trump eventually picks for the Supreme Court, but he said the hurdles now being erected by Democrats, led by Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, are unfair.
“Sen. Schumer would even complain about not having enough seats in the hearing room,” Mr. McConnell told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “These are all kind of manufactured reasons, Chris, to slow down the process, because they don’t want this administration to be treated like other administrations and being given the opportunity to get up and get started.”
One of Mr. Trump’s more controversial nominees, former Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson, got good news Sunday when two key Republicans said they would vote to confirm him, ending weeks of speculation and making it far more likely that he will succeed in the upcoming vote.
Trump lifts mandate for Obamacare coverage in symbolic step to repeal
President Trump’s sweeping order against Obamacare late Friday appears to give the new administration enough leeway to target the most unpopular aspect of his predecessor’s law — a mandate requiring Americans to get coverage or pay a fine, policy analysts said.
The executive order, issued hours after Mr. Trump was sworn in, also sets the stage for selling insurance across state lines and eyes “greater flexibility to states” in implementing health care programs, which are key tenets for Republicans looking to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act alongside Mr. Trump.
Though the order has no immediate effect — many Obamacare provisions are written into law, and Mr. Trump’s health care team isn’t in place — congressional Republicans praised it as a symbolic step toward offering relief from the law’s soaring premiums and dwindling choices. Republicans will be using fast-track budget rules to gut the “individual mandate” and other parts of the law in the coming weeks.
“This action demonstrates that President Trump is committed to fixing the damage caused by Obamacare as soon as possible,” said Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican.
Republican leaders say they will repeal Obamacare and replace it this year with a plan that doles out fixed tax credits and unleashes market forces to entice people into health care coverage rather than relying on a mandate to force them into coverage.
Yet repealing the mandate before an alternative plan is in place could cause uncertainty for insurers participating in the program’s web-based exchanges, analysts said. The mandate is the main tool to pull healthy people into the marketplace to balance the costs for sicker customers who can no longer be denied insurance.
Certain people are exempt from the mandate, either because they do not earn enough money or because they fit certain categories — for example, they are in prison, are in the country illegally or take care of their own health care costs through faith-based health care ministries. Still others can qualify for one of 14 “hardship exemptions” issued by the Health and Human Services Department, such as a recent eviction, a bankruptcy filing or the death of a close family member, or if they were a victim of domestic violence.
Recruitment poses challenge to Trump’s military plans
While much of the debate over how the administration will pay for its ambitious defense buildup, an equally large question mark looms over whether Mr. Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis can find enough willing and able recruits to meet the demands for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump called for a restoration of force levels across the services to numbers before a series of “sequestration” cuts to defense spending, including a 540,000-member Army, backed by a 350-ship Navy and an Air Force of 1,200 fighter aircraft.
The increases to the Navy and Air Force would likely result in a small uptick of 100,000 sailors and airmen combined, compared with the force levels sought in the Army and Marine Corps, , senior international security adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Washington Times.